More migrants

I finished work early today to go for a walk, despite the weather forecast threatening heavy showers this afternoon (which, apart from a few drizzly moments, never materialised).

The first thing I spotted was before I even started – my second batch of swifts of the year out of the tram window, with at least twenty wheeling above between Shalesmoor and Langsett Primrose Hill tram stops. There were also three swallows flitting around.

I caught a bus out to Oughtibridge and walked through Wharncliffe Woods and onwards to Deepcar. There wasn’t too much to see, to be honest, but I fear I meandered down the less interesting footpaths and will have another wander round there at an earlier time of day before the end of the breeding season. I did, however, hear by first whitethroats of the year, and the unmistakable song of a cuckoo near Wharncliffe Heath. I’ll definitely be back there to try and catch a glimpse!

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Birding goals for the Spring

Last year I set myself some birding goals for the year (Raven, Red Kite, Avocet, Short-eared Owl, Little Auk, Smew, Goshawk, Crossbill, Bittern, Kingfisher), of birds I’d never seen, not seen for ages, or wanted better views of. In a tiny bit over a year, I actually managed eight out of ten of them (except Short-eared Owl and Little Auk), which I don’t consider bad going.

This Spring and Summer I thought I’d do a similar thing, but not be quite that amitious, and not put any birds on the list that won’t be easily found within a walk or bus journey from my house. The following birds are all ones that, despite being reasonably common, have managed not to end up on my lists for the last two years through some kind of ornithological imcompetence on my part. So over the next couple of months I’m going after:

Redstart
Whinchat
Woodcock
Spotted Flycatcher
Cuckoo
Grasshopper Warbler
Barn Owl
Lesser Whitethroat
Yellow Wagtail
Wood Warbler

I have very good ideas where to find most of these, but if anyone has any good tips for particularly reliable spots feel free to get in touch!

Speaking of barn owls, Laura thinks she saw one flying across the road as she was driving up the bottom of Rivelin Valley Road (Malin Bridge end) on Saturday. Although a built up area, there’s a lot of fields nearby around the abandoned Loxley College, so I can imagine there being suitable habitat. Has anyone heard of any sighted in this area?

One of our buzzards is missing

Today’s been a good day. The weather’s been great and spring really seems to have arrived. Swallows are everywhere, willow warblers are singing all over the place, and butterflies are flitting around.

This morning I had a trip up to Rocher Head – after a couple of trips up to find wheatears recently, I finally got a tip where to find them (the fields near Cowell Flats) and got good views of two of them (cheers, Richard!). Wandering back down Agden Side, I heard two singing tree pipits. Believe it or not this is a life tick for me, despite them being fairly common in western Sheffield – it really pays to learn your bird songs! Other highlights included loads of curlews, lapwings, a singing blackcap and two linnets.

This afternoon I decided to have another short walk, and took the wooded footpath to the south of the River Loxley. I stopped suddenly when I saw a large buzzard perched in a tree a matter of feet away from me. A brilliant patch tick! But then it dawned on me this easily approached buzzard was a bit suspicious. I inched a bit further forward and it flew off, and I noticed there was something hanging from its foot. It didn’t move far, and I caught up with it before long, and my suspicions were correct – the thing hanging from its foot was a leather strap. Obviously some falconer’s lost their buzzard! I’ll be keeping my eyes open for this bird on future trips.

Other patch highlights included a male blackcap, a few swallows, six linnets, two curlews and the little owls at Old Wheel Farm again (if you want to see a little owl this is the place to go!). I also got a non-bird patch tick with a common toad at Old Wheel Dam.

Dippers and bats

A couple more interesting things I saw last night – I walked up the river on my way home from work yesterday afternoon, and got good views of a dipper on the stretch of river behind Loxley Park residential home. It’s the first time I’ve seen one that far down the valley (although I must admit, I don’t frequent that part as much as others).

I also saw my first bat of the year last night – presumably a pipistrelle – fly past the living room window.